Author Topic: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?  (Read 4789 times)

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weeblewobble

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2013, 01:01:18 PM »
My husband managed to shut down the neighborhood gossip once, though he flirted with the edge of being impolite.  When we moved into the house, it became clear early on our next door neighbor, Dee, was the NNN.  (Neighborhood News Network.) She was quick to share a dossier of details about every single household on the block. We though maybe she was trying to give us the orientation package or something, but every subsequent visit involved discussions of what was going on in the neighbors' houses.  Bean-dipping simply did.not.work.

Finally, when she was telling us a really detailed and sordid story, DH snorted, "Geez, we need to make sure you don't find out anything about us, Dee.  I'd hate for us to show up on the neighborhood report."

Dee was pretty offended and insisted that she wasn't gossiping.  She just wanted us to know what sort of people we were living near. But she did stop giving us the neighborhood report every time we saw her. 

I will admit DH could have been more gentle in his wording, but at the same time, Dee's behavior was equally offensive, so I'd say it was a wash.

YummyMummy66

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2013, 01:05:42 PM »
If the couple in question wanted their business to remain private, then they should not have shared their business.

Especially, each one to a different aunt.

What I might do is tell the couple that if they don't mind everyone knowing their business, fine, but if they do, they might not want to discuss it with family members who then discuss it with everyone at a family function.


Hmmmmm

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2013, 01:25:28 PM »
I think I would have approached as a joke with 'OK, I don't need to know that much about X & Y! So cousin, how is school going?"

veronaz

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2013, 03:30:18 PM »
My husband managed to shut down the neighborhood gossip once, though he flirted with the edge of being impolite.  When we moved into the house, it became clear early on our next door neighbor, Dee, was the NNN.  (Neighborhood News Network.) She was quick to share a dossier of details about every single household on the block. We though maybe she was trying to give us the orientation package or something, but every subsequent visit involved discussions of what was going on in the neighbors' houses.  Bean-dipping simply did.not.work.

Finally, when she was telling us a really detailed and sordid story, DH snorted, "Geez, we need to make sure you don't find out anything about us, Dee.  I'd hate for us to show up on the neighborhood report."

Dee was pretty offended and insisted that she wasn't gossiping.  She just wanted us to know what sort of people we were living near. But she did stop giving us the neighborhood report every time we saw her. 

I will admit DH could have been more gentle in his wording, but at the same time, Dee's behavior was equally offensive, so I'd say it was a wash.

 ;D

I like your DH!

“Neighborhood orientation” indeed.  ::) I had a neighbor like that,  She came off really classy and helpful at first, and it took awhile but eventually it became clear she was the neighborhood busybody.  People avoided having any contact with her.

gmatoy

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2013, 11:25:19 PM »
Many years ago I was in the same situation as the OP. What I did was to quietly chat with the cousin who had been the topic of discussion. I told her that I thought she had been trusting that some things she had said were private and that they weren't. I refused to name names. I refused to say what had been discussed. And my cousin told me later that she respected my stand... and she quit telling family details that she wasn't willing to have spread.

Lynn2000

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2013, 11:45:11 PM »
What an uncomfortable situation! I think what I probably would have done, and I feel like I have done this although the situation wasn't so extreme, is to make a joke at some point that kind of highlights the inappropriateness of what's being discussed--even if it's just saying, "AWKWARD!" or "Wow, TMI!" Then I usually get up and leave for another room or something.

I usually let others fend for themselves, but if there's someone else looking uncomfortable or not participating, I think it would be perfectly fine to draw them into another room or another conversation. Like, "Hey, Joe, did you make the pumpkin pie? I'm going to go have another piece, want to come with and tell me how it's made?" It's not super-smooth, but I think in a situation like this, smoothness is not really what you're going for, you know? A little nudge that people are talking about something they shouldn't and that you don't like it is, I think, appropriate.

And, I also want to second the idea that the couple do need to stop yapping about their marital problems to these relatives. Unless it was something like, they actually said very innocuous things and the relatives were picking them apart for hidden meanings. If I felt close-ish to the couple being discussed, I think I would drop them a line about it. "Hey, this is super-awkward for me, but I thought you would want to know that a bunch of [unnamed] family members were discussing your marriage the other day. If I knew people were saying those things about MY marriage, I would be really uncomfortable and would want to know about it, so I wanted to tell you. That's all I'm going to say about it, though." Maybe an email.
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flickan

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #21 on: October 12, 2013, 12:11:57 AM »
Regarding:

If the couple in question wanted their business to remain private, then they should not have shared their business.

Especially, each one to a different aunt.

What I might do is tell the couple that if they don't mind everyone knowing their business, fine, but if they do, they might not want to discuss it with family members who then discuss it with everyone at a family function.

and

And, I also want to second the idea that the couple do need to stop yapping about their marital problems to these relatives. Unless it was something like, they actually said very innocuous things and the relatives were picking them apart for hidden meanings. If I felt close-ish to the couple being discussed, I think I would drop them a line about it. "Hey, this is super-awkward for me, but I thought you would want to know that a bunch of [unnamed] family members were discussing your marriage the other day. If I knew people were saying those things about MY marriage, I would be really uncomfortable and would want to know about it, so I wanted to tell you. That's all I'm going to say about it, though." Maybe an email.

The couple themselves is more or less private, as in, they don't discuss their disagreements in public that I've ever seen.  Most of what was uncomfortable was the speculation by family members based on what they had heard.  However, the things that were repeated that had been said by the married couple, well, please forgive me for being vague while I explain.

One partner is a blood relation and so has grown up with the family, in this case it's, "Well so-and-so is like this and has always been like this and I remember when so-and-so did this"  From what I heard of this conversation the things repeated that this partner said were otherwise innocuous but in the context of what they were talking about were taken to have extra meaning.   

The other partner married in but is quite close to our family.  This partner is the one who has confided some private things to one aunt (so it's pretty obviously where the leak is) who has apparently shared those things to all the other siblings and so it goes.  So there is definitely an expectation of confidentiality that is not being met.

I think it's very good advice to try and caution this person not to air any dirty laundry if they can help it but it's a real quandary for me personally because to say something like, "Oh I hate to tell you this but I know you told auntie some things you didn't want anyone else to know...."  let's just say that wouldn't go over well at all and I would be very concerned that because of how close my aunt is to the party in question it would cause a lot of hurt and distrust.  I am not as close to either of the partners as my aunt is.  I'm not even sure they'd know how to react to me coming in out of the blue and speaking up.  Morally it might be the right way to go but politically it would be a disaster.

Lynn2000

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2013, 12:38:02 AM »
One partner is a blood relation and so has grown up with the family, in this case it's, "Well so-and-so is like this and has always been like this and I remember when so-and-so did this"  From what I heard of this conversation the things repeated that this partner said were otherwise innocuous but in the context of what they were talking about were taken to have extra meaning.   

The other partner married in but is quite close to our family.  This partner is the one who has confided some private things to one aunt (so it's pretty obviously where the leak is) who has apparently shared those things to all the other siblings and so it goes.  So there is definitely an expectation of confidentiality that is not being met.

I think it's very good advice to try and caution this person not to air any dirty laundry if they can help it but it's a real quandary for me personally because to say something like, "Oh I hate to tell you this but I know you told auntie some things you didn't want anyone else to know...."  let's just say that wouldn't go over well at all and I would be very concerned that because of how close my aunt is to the party in question it would cause a lot of hurt and distrust.  I am not as close to either of the partners as my aunt is.  I'm not even sure they'd know how to react to me coming in out of the blue and speaking up.  Morally it might be the right way to go but politically it would be a disaster.

I understand what you mean. If you feel it's right, though, I think I would still risk giving them a warning. IMO, the key is to be very vague about what you heard and where you heard it--that's why I personally would rather do this over email and not in person, so the other person couldn't squeeze me so much. Tell them flat-out you're going to be vague because you don't want to start drama, you just want them to know that stuff YOU would consider private about your marriage was being actively discussed among a large group of relatives, and that if it was you, you would want to know, and it would make you rethink who you told things to. Like, literally, that is what I would tell them--put that whole last sentence in quotes. :) And refuse to answer any more questions about it. I wouldn't mention Aunt or who else was there or what was being discussed or even when exactly it happened, although they may be able to guess some of it.

Depending on your personality and the relationship, you could go earnest--"I know this is weird to hear from me, and I'm sorry if this upsets you..."--or you could go light-hearted--"You know how sometimes people in our family gossip about stuff, so it's better not to tell them anything? Yeah... you and Jenny were being dissected the other day. FYI. Not saying any more." Or even throw in some very innocuous, ridiculous thing as the ONE example--"Your new car is RED? I mean, really. What are the neighbors gonna think? ::)"

But, you know, you gotta do what you think is best. Hopefully they know that you're not the type to cause trouble.
~Lynn2000

Figgie

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #23 on: October 12, 2013, 06:58:05 PM »
Many years of experience has taught me to intervene by changing the topic to a more general one.  So, if they are talking about a specific marriage, I start asking questions about marriage.   

I will ask people what the best advice about marriage they ever received and whether it was true or not.  I ask them what the most difficult issues they think marriages today have to deal with.  I ask them about the worst advice about marriage that they ever received.

Many people love to talk share their opinions about marriage.  :)  I just do what I can to shift them off of the topic of the absent person's marriage into a general discussion about marriage. 

One of the most hysterical conversations I can remember with my aunts, mother and Grandmother is when I asked my Grandma what advice her mother had given her before she got married.  :)  I never knew my very prim and proper Grandma had such a wicked sense of humor until then.

AnnaJ

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #24 on: October 13, 2013, 11:25:21 AM »
Regarding the immediate situation - I think I'd find something else to do for awhile.  Telling others what to talk about (or not to talk about) isn't something I do; the exception would be if the family was saying rude or hurtful things about either party, then I'd intervene.

I wouldn't be inclined to say anything to either partner unless you are extremely close to one or both - by which I mean, closer to them than they are to the two aunts who they confided in.

lorelai

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #25 on: October 13, 2013, 10:09:13 PM »
I wish there was an etiquette approved way of telling the family that their gossiping is really distasteful so it could be shut down in the moment.

Venus193

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Re: how to deal with family gossip-- is it my place to speak up?
« Reply #26 on: October 14, 2013, 12:43:40 PM »
Being a "junior" member is irrelevant, either you have value in your family, or you do not. It would not have been rude to deliberately and forcefully steer the conversation elsewhere. Too many families operate disfunctionally because there is an idea that elders deserve greater respect. This is a myth. Every member of the family deserves equal respect.

This.  Once you are a legal adult there is no age/seniority trump card for any of your older relatives left to play.